No Fear will ramp up its marketing efforts via ad pact with ESPN

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No Fear is putting almost its entire 1997 media budget into ESPN's hands with a global ad pact encompassing all the sports network's media properties.

The ESPN deal will serve as the apparel company's chief marketing platform for a harder-core athletic brand positioning and major line extension.


The highlight of the deal is a No Fear-sponsored element that will air during ESPN's telecasts of sports events. This segment--reminiscent of an advertiser-sponsored "play of the game" feature--will showcase a particular play that is deemed a "No Fear moment."

The segment will run immediately following a commercial break. No Fear agency GSD&M is creating the visual look of the segment; the Austin, Texas, shop also negotiated the ESPN deal.

The deal is the first of its kind for ESPN, which recently restructured its ad sales department in large part to handle multimedia buys on a one-stop shopping basis. The pact covers ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN's international networks, ESPNET SportsZone, and its radio network and magazine titles.

Neither No Fear nor ESPN would specify the size of the deal. "It's more than a buck but less than $20 million," said Jeffrey Mahl, ESPN's senior VP-ad sales, adding that another, similar deal should be finalized within three weeks. No Fear spent $1.4 million in measured media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Privately held No Fear declined to disclose sales but is credited for creating the lucrative "attitudewear" niche. Until recently, its meager ad budget has been spent mostly on print. Its few TV spots have been tied to specific sports events, like the 1995 Super Bowl, though memorable creative helped those spots stand out.


The ESPN buy represents a major increase of No Fear's overall media spending. The one-year deal includes co-sponsorship with General Motors Corp. of the 1997 ESPY Awards next spring. That's when No Fear will launch a campaign supporting a new performance apparel line, spanning technical products targeting specific sports to functional apparel suited for any athletic activity.

That campaign will also support the company's core business: sports casual apparel emblazoned with the No Fear logo. Ads will continue to be brand-focused, but in a departure from past work, start to feature No Fear product. Buys will also be made on other broadcast and cable networks.

"The ESPN deal doesn't merely get us exposure," said Michael Moore, No Fear's VP-marketing. It also gives "us brand positioning, as ESPN is the most credible brand name in sports."

Copyright August 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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